New York University film school graduate student Darius Clark Monroe already has Spike Lee behind him as an executive producer. It’s quite a beginning to what could be a great career. What truly makes this story unusual, though, is that Monroe spent time in prison as a result of armed robbery when he was 16.
In “Evolution of a Criminal,” he revisits his past in a thoughtful exploration of what leads people to crime. Monroe doesn’t make excuses, but he does examine economic injustice and the effects of marginalization.
Monroe, now 33, put the camera on himself only briefly and mostly focused on members of his family or others who were involved in the saga that took place years before he entered NYU. We follow him in the film as he attempts to apologize to the people who were there the day he robbed a bank.
One of those people accepted the apology but strongly told him to leave, while another sat down and talked with him about it from a forgiving perspective.
Monroe has said he resisted the idea of creating a reenactment of the crime, but eventually, he felt that it was necessary in order to give the audience a realistic view of what took place.
He also interviewed people at NYU who did not know until the making of the film that he had been incarcerated. They had to admit that they might have viewed him differently if they had known about his past at the time of their first meeting.
I’m sure there will be those who question Monroe’s honesty, but that distrust is exactly one of the themes that he explores in the film. How does an ex-con ever gain the trust of anyone who knows about his past?
“Evolution of a Criminal” premiered at SXSW and has won a few film festival awards. It opens in New York on Oct. 10, 2014 and in Los Angeles on Oct. 17. It will play in other cities later in the year. I recommend it.